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Abraham Lincoln (Penguin Lives) [Hardcover]

By Thomas Keneally (Author)
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Item description for Abraham Lincoln (Penguin Lives) by Thomas Keneally...

This self-made man from a log cabin-the great orator, the Emancipator, the savior of the Union, the martyr-was arguably our greatest president; but it takes a master storyteller like Thomas Keneally, author of the award-winning novel that inspired the film Schindler's List, to bring alive the history behind the myth. Acclaimed for his recent Civil War biography, American Scoundrel, Keneally delves with relish-and a keen, fresh eye-into Lincoln's complicated persona.

Abraham Lincoln depicts all the amazing man's triumphs, insecurities, and crushing defeats with uncanny insight: his early poverty and the ambition that propelled him out of it; the shaping of the man and his political philosophy by youthful exposure to Christianity, slavery, and business; his tempestuous marriage and his fatherly love. We see him, elected to the presidency by a twist of fate, unswerving in the grim day-to-day conduct of the war as his vision and acumen led the country forward. Abraham Lincoln is an incisive study of a turning point in our history and a revealing portrait of its pivotal figure, his greatness etched even more clearly in this very touching human story.



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Item Specifications...


Studio: Viking Adult
Pages   192
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.5" Width: 5.4" Height: 0.9"
Weight:   0.55 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Dec 31, 2002
Publisher   Viking Adult
ISBN  0670031755  
ISBN13  9780670031757  
UPC  051488019954  


Availability  0 units.


More About Thomas Keneally


Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Thomas Keneally has won international acclaim for his novels Schindler's Ark, Confederates, Gossip from the Forest, Playmaker, Woman of the Inner Sea, and A River Town. He is most recently the author of the biography American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles.

Thomas Keneally currently resides in Sydney. Thomas Keneally was born in 1935.

Thomas Keneally has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Penguin Lives Biographies


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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Historical > United States > General
3Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Historical > United States
4Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Presidents & Heads of State
5Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > People, A-Z > ( L ) > Lincoln, Abraham
6Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > Civil War > General


Christian Product Categories
Books > Inspiration > Motivation > Biography & Autobiography



Reviews - What do customers think about Abraham Lincoln (Penguin Lives)?

Lincoln: "the bloodied nation incarnate"   Oct 17, 2005
This is one of several volumes in the Penguin Lives Series, each of which written by a distinguished author in her or his own right. Each provides a concise but remarkably comprehensive biography of its subject in combination with a penetrating analysis of the significance of that subject's life and career. I think this is a brilliant concept. Those who wish to learn more about the given subject are directed to other sources.

While preparing to comment on various volumes in this series, I have struggled with determining what would be of greatest interest and assistance to those who read my reviews. Finally I decided that a few brief excerpts and then some concluding remarks of my own would be appropriate.

Keneally's approach to his subject is somewhat unorthodox. Other than explaining at the outset that he retains "the erratic spelling of some of the good-faith witnesses to Lincoln's life," he offers no introduction to the narrative. Rather, he proceeds immediately into a chronology which begins with Lincoln's birth "on a mattress of corn husks in a nest of bear rugs on the morning of February 12, a Sabbath, 1809, and until Lincoln's death on April 15, 1865, which prompted Edwin M. Stanton to observe, "Now he belongs to the ages." Keneally concludes, "He had become the bloodied nation incarnate."

Keneally organizes his material within sixteen chapters. His gifts as a novelist are soon obvious, especially his use of figurative language and compelling details, but he seems wholly faithful to primary sources rather than taking certain liberties to achieve dramatic effect. For example, he does not invent conversations (however plausible) nor does he indulge in speculations which subsequent scholarship has not verified.

Lincoln's response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act which voided the Missouri Compromise: "[Senator Stephen A.] Douglas's initiative brought Lincoln back to passionate participation in politics, since [the Act] violated a number of his profoundly held principles. Her wanted the West to a home for free white people. It would not be so if it became slave states. `Slave states are places for poor white people to remove from; not to remove to.'"

On preserving the Union, Lincoln observed: "Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may divorce, and go out of the presence, and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face; and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them."

After Union forces had struck a "stunning blow" at Gettysburg, Lee and his forces were allowed to "slip" away. Meade had not seized the military advantage. Lincoln's reaction? "Again, my dear general, I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee's escape. He was within your easy grasp...as it is, the war will [now] be prolonged indefinitely. If you could not safely attack Lee last Monday, how can you possibly do so south of the [Potomac]...As you have learned that I was dissatisfied, I have thought it best to tell you why."

Prior to delivering his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln had noticed the empty coffins at the railroad depot and freshly dug graves nearby awaiting their corpses. According to Keneally, "It is now known that the difficulties of identifying the contents of the shallowly dug battlefield graves meant that some Confederates, wearing remnants of captured Union uniforms, were buried among the Union troops, an accident of which Lincoln would probably have approved." After Grant assumed command of all Union forces on January 29, 1863, they eventually prevailed. On April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered his Confederate army to Grant at the village of Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Lincoln was then re-elected to a second term.

According to Keneally, Lincoln later shared with his wife Mary the details of a nightmare during which he encountered a catafalque on which rested a corpse in funeral vestments. Around it guards were stationed. "Who is dead in the White House?" Lincoln asked. "The president," one of them answered, "he was killed by an assassin!" Not long after that nightmare, Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre on Good Friday.

Of course, these brief excerpts are taken out of context but, I hope, offer at least some indication of Keneally's approach to his subject. The Lincoln he portrays is both majestic and insecure, stubborn and deferential, principled and devious, but at all times profoundly human. Hopefully these brief excerpts and comments will encourage those who read this review to read Keneally's biography. It is a brilliant achievement.
 
A good Solid short Bio  Sep 12, 2004
After a bad experience with Tom Wicker's Penguin Lives book on Bush 41, I decided to give the series one more chance and got what I wanted with Keneally's Lincoln. I've read enough about the Civil War to have a decent understanding of Lincoln's Civil War years, but Keneally does a good concise job of leading the reader up to that point. This poor Lincoln could be compared to Job in so many ways. His wife Mary Todd would have been a handful for anyone, but circumstances resulted in him burying half his children from some disease or another. Lincoln then goes on to save the nation only to find a bullet.

Again and again in his career, Lincoln escaped his own ego in order to pursue the greater end. His homely self-effacing appearance and manner led many to underestimate him and he let them do so to win points later. You could argue that it won him the Republican nomination, because "smarter" men thought that they could control him. It was the same thing in his cabinet and with his commanding General, McClellan. Everybody wondered how this "idiot" could be in charge of the country. Some like McClellan never got wise, even after being roundly defeated by Lincoln in the 1864 election. Others like Stanton and Seward grew to understand Lincoln's brand of genius.

Like good literature, Lincoln dies at the end of the story rather than serving two more terms of mediocrity. Also like good literature, it was a southerner that killed the man, and the result of that action was a much harsher treatment by the radical Republicans toward the south than Lincoln would have cottoned too. As a reader of Shakespeare, Lincoln would have enjoyed the cosmic joke of it all.

Lincoln's greatness is without question so it's a little hard for an author to find fault with the man, but Keneally does what he can to present the full Lincoln and I enjoyed his 200 pages.
 
Really Good Overview  May 26, 2004
I'm only a casual reader of history and biographies. I didn't want to read a thousand-page work about Lincoln's extraordinary life. I only wanted an overview, some sort of work to give me a sense of the man. For my purposes, this little biography by Thomas Keneally was a success. It's brief, but it hits all of the most important points of the presidents life. It captures the contradictions and conflicts that marked Lincoln's life, and it does so with, at times, soem true lyricism. Keneally is a good writer (though his fiction such as Schindler's List is much better) and particularly over the first part of this biography, that is evident. The biography only suffers during the last half when Lincoln seems to disappear behind Keneally's depiction of the war. I don't think Lincoln's great role and conflicts during the war were aptly shown. Also, the biography ended too abruptly with no attempt at summation. I know that the Penguin Lives reach for brevity, but this is one of the shorter books in that series. Keneally could have given Lincoln another twenty pages and still been under 200 pages. Nevertheless, this biography is good, certainly serving its purpose as an overview that will answer essential questions and incite further inquiry into life of one of America's greatest presidents.
 
One of the better American presidents  Apr 2, 2004
All in all, this is a reasonable but uninspired biography suitable for anyone not otherwise familiar with the heritage and life of America's greatest, or at least second-greatest, president.

History, even biography, is an examination of the past to understand the present and offer a guide for the future. On this basis, the contrast between Lincoln and modern politicians is abundantly relevant; Kenneally makes abundantly clear that Lincoln was a compromiser, a man concerned with temporary expediency of policy, a man of stubborn persistence and long-held values. Unlike today's politicians, who like bold decisive actions, he was not a man of unilateral impulsive decisions and hasty judgments.

As Kenneally makes clear, it was the Confederate leaders who recklessly and unilaterally plunged into the Civil War. Had they accepted Lincoln's compromise efforts, the Old South might still be a cotton-picking slave society; at the very least, slavery would have lasted for decades past the Emancipation Declaration of Jan. 1, 1863.

Sound familiar? Lincoln had his own "radical right" critics; instead of being ruled by their evangelical values, he remained in charge and favored gradualism. This gradualism may have been beneficial, or it may have been disastrous. Kenneally writes, "But even Lincoln began to believe, as McClellan delayed, that some Democratic generals didn't really want anything drastic to happen to the Confederacy, fearing that a great victory would encourage the administration to emancipate slaves."

Perhaps Lincoln's compromise and gradualism meant he selected "cautious" generals rather than plunge an unprepared army into disaster as happened at Bull Run on July 21, 1861. Except for U.S. Grant, Union generals have always been criticized for caution. But, Kenneally makes me wonder if Lincoln's conscious or even unconscious "cautious" nature prompted him to select cautious generals.

It's a basic question that comes to mind from this book: Were Lincoln's generals incompetent? Or did his generals merely reflect the innate nature of Lincoln, preferring caution and thoroughness to impulsive and unilateral action?

Lincoln is the worldwide symbol of American greatness, just as Southern slavery typifies the worst of America. Every nation, every person, has their own good and bad traits; most everyone understands the complexity of this dual nature. It is as true today as it was when Lincoln became the nation's leader. This book admirably illustrates the greatness to which a president can rise. It is a lesson for this fall's election. Perhaps there is something valid for a president to be, like Lincoln, "Ever the gradualist . . . . " Lincoln never wanted to be "a war president" and did as much as he could to avoid war.

On the other hand, Lincoln believed in the "Doctrine of Necessity" -- which means people act rationally because of enlightened self interest. It is why he failed to understand the Confederacy would be so stupid as to secede. Perhaps, had Lincoln been less the Gradualist, less a believer in Necessity, the Civil War might have been averted.

Possible? It's a couple of issues that Kenneally doesn't examine, but he provides enough background to raise these questions. It's what makes his book so interesting. He doesn't try to resolve either issue, he leaves such thinking to every astute reader.

It makes this a most interesting book.

 
Lincoln -- a man of 'compromise' in a time of ideologues  Apr 2, 2004
All in all, this is a reasonable but uninspired biography suitable for anyone not otherwise familiar with the heritage and life of America's greatest, or at least second-greatest, president.

History, even biography, is an examination of the past to understand the present and offer a guide for the future. On this basis, the contrast between Lincoln and modern politicians is abundantly relevant; Kenneally makes abundantly clear that Lincoln was a compromiser, a man concerned with temporary expediency of policy, a man of stubborn persistence and long-held values. Unlike today's politicians, who like bold decisive actions, he was not a man of unilateral impulsive decisions and hasty judgments.

As Kenneally makes clear, it was the Confederate leaders who recklessly and unilaterally plunged into the Civil War. Had they accepted Lincoln's compromise efforts, the Old South might still be a cotton-picking slave society; at the very least, slavery would have lasted for decades past the Emancipation Declaration of Jan. 1, 1863.

Sound familiar? Lincoln had his own "radical right" critics; instead of being ruled by their evangelical values, he remained in charge and favored gradualism. This gradualism may have been beneficial, or it may have been disastrous. Kenneally writes, "But even Lincoln began to believe, as McClellan delayed, that some Democratic generals didn't really want anything drastic to happen to the Confederacy, fearing that a great victory would encourage the administration to emancipate slaves."

Perhaps Lincoln's compromise and gradualism meant he selected "cautious" generals rather than plunge an unprepared army into disaster as happened at Bull Run on July 21, 1861. Except for U.S. Grant, Union generals have always been criticized for caution. But, Kenneally makes me wonder if Lincoln's conscious or even unconscious "cautious" nature prompted him to select cautious generals.

It's a basic question that comes to mind from this book: Were Lincoln's generals incompetent? Or did his generals merely reflect the innate nature of Lincoln, preferring caution and thoroughness to impulsive and unilateral action?

Lincoln is the worldwide symbol of American greatness, just as Southern slavery typifies the worst of America. Every nation, every person, has their own good and bad traits; most everyone understands the complexity of this dual nature. It is as true today as it was when Lincoln became the nation's leader. This book admirably illustrates the greatness to which a president can rise. It is a lesson for this fall's election. Perhaps there is something valid for a president to be, like Lincoln, "Ever the gradualist . . . . " Lincoln never wanted to be "a war president" and did as much as he could to avoid war.

On the other hand, Lincoln believed in the "Doctrine of Necessity" -- which means people act rationally because of enlightened self interest. It is why he failed to understand the Confederacy would be so stupid as to secede. Perhaps, had Lincoln been less the Gradualist, less a believer in Necessity, the Civil War might have been averted.

Possible? It's a couple of issues that Kenneally doesn't examine, but he provides enough background to raise these questions. It's what makes his book so interesting. He doesn't try to resolve either issue, he leaves such thinking to every astute reader.

It makes this a most interesting book.

 

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